Why this Author Loves Her C Grade

Dear Reader,

Last week I got a review at Dear Author, which was both awesome and a little “meh.” The “meh” came in because I got a C-, which I’ve been told is still a solid grade. To confirm this, I looked up some of my favorite romance authors to see how they fared: they all got Cs as well. Mary Jo Putney, Candace Camp, Lucinda Brant, and more.

Why I Love a C Review

The awesome came in because I got a five page critique from the reviewer. No, seriously. I copied the text into Microsoft Word and it was five single-spaced pages.

Let me repeat that. Five. Single-spaced. Pages.

She went into detail that I would expect from an editor getting paid for her judgment. I kowtow at her feet and offer as much tea as I can brew and she can drink with multiple bathroom breaks. Her critique was spot on, pointing out everything I’ve wondered about my writing. She essentially gave me a checklist of things I need to make sure NOT to do in The Rebel’s Hero.

Do you know how many authors would commit murder for this kind of free feedback?

This is important stuff, I feel, because so often we authors can be a bit sensitive about reviews. And sure, when the reviewer launches into an emotional reason about why they did or did not like the book, that is less than helpful. Still, each review provides a learning experience, positive or negative. It is feedback for the next time we put pen to paper, and we should value them all, garnished with a grain of salt.

Plus, a C-range grade from Dear Author isn’t nearly as bad as some authors feel. It translates to “this book is competent, but not for me.” It’s a “good but not great” book. It’s a book that was “fun, but not sure I’d read it again.”

That’s fair. I’ll take that. Some of my favorite authors have multiple books in that “not sure I’d read it again” category. Darling Reader, I invite you to read the review and leave your opinion in the comments. The review was more than fair, and the comments were very nice. I would be interested to see your responses, as I know some of you left reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.

Tumbling Around the Interwebs

Completely unrelated, I created a Tumblr for the videos, photos, and inspirational quotes I want to share that don’t warrant an entire blog post.

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook, then you will see the content there. The fun part about Tumblr is that it’s an easy way to ask me questions, or to submit fun content for others to see. I’ll see you over there!

And finally, if you’re a fan of Readability, we have a new link available in the sidebar. Read now or later, this is a quick and easy way to syndicate the blog.

All right, I think that’s it for this week! Best,

Belinda

 

 

In which I Dance and Grab an Expert

Dear Reader,

I’m gathering resources for The Rebel’s Hero for research. I talked with my resident Civil War expert, a friend from undergrad who majored in Civil War history, and he gave me the best worst news ever: my plot is implausible in the location I chose. He threw a ton of websites, books, and notable names I need to research. He upped my work level, but also inspired me with his knowledge, so even though this project is temporarily on hold, it’s for the best.

So far, I know that the story will be moving from Western Virginia (before it became a state) to Kentucky, with more emphasis on the Ohio side of things because Ohio was such a big player in the Underground Railroad. Go Ohio! O-H!

Abolitionism was huge in Ohio by the time the Civil War began, by the way. With so many Quakers around who felt slavery was against God’s will, it makes sense. This was something I touched upon briefly in Catching the Rose, something I always wanted to really delve into. This rewrite with The Rebel’s Hero is giving me just that chance. Beyond excited about it, though intimidated at the idea of trying to encapsulate so many poignant topics in one book. I know I’m going to fail, on a certain level. I won’t ever be completely accurate, since it is a work of fiction.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I won’t have readers accusing me of being racist with this book! Or maybe they will. If they do, I hope it causes notoriety so more people pick up the book! Haha. Oh the life of a self-made author…

I’m working on a non-fiction book under a different name. Non-fiction, I’m finding, is difficult to write, especially when attempting to write a how-to. It’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to get it out by the time schools start up again.

I had a breakthrough brainstorm at lunch last week for the new Victorian book, My Unwitting Heiress. The ideas exploded in my brain so that I hardly had time to grab pen and paper to write them down. This plot just became much funnier, more plausible, and its beginning will overlap with the ending of Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I’m still unsure as to whether the characters in the books will know each other. I’m guessing not. I’m waiting for them to tell me. I had this image of the heroine, Edith, from My Unwitting Heiress, sharing the train with Mary, from Haunting Miss Trentwood. They don’t know one another, but they’re both going to London for the queen’s golden jubilee. It’s one of those subtle nods that always make me chuckle when I read other authors doing it.

In other news, Suzy Turner, author of the young adult fantasy Raven, interviewed me over the weekend. She asked awesome questions, such as which actors would play the characters in Haunting Miss Trentwood. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as she asked, I knew right away. Check out the interview at Suzy’s blog for my answers!

Unrelated to writing, I’ve been dancing more than ever. Once a week I attend the local swing dance and becoming more deeply involved in the dance community. It’s great exercise and an excuse to socialize. I bought some dresses just because the skirts swirl around my legs like crazy, and I’m pretty sure my leads were trying crazier stunts with me just to see that skirt move. So much fun.

If you have never swing danced before, I encourage you to give it a try. Every city I’ve ever swing danced in has been super welcoming and supportive. We don’t care how well you dance, only that you’re interested in dancing, and you’re coming to the event with a smile. If you’re ever in Columbus, OH, make a point to attend the swing dance. In fact, ask me to dance. I promise I will. And if you don’t know how to dance, I’ll teach you the mashed potato and we’ll have a blast.

I think that’s it on the home front. I’m keeping to my ROW80 goals of writing 750 words a week. It’s a low goal, but since the point is to make sure I’m writing, I’m ok with it. I finished the second round of ROW80, even though I was an awful sponsor this time! I wonder how everyone else is doing?

Best,
Belinda

Worderella Around the Web

Dear Reader,

We’ve been busy here behind the scenes, researching and writing and preparing for contests and such.

I’m also continuing to do research for The Rebel’s Hero. As I learn, I’ve been going back through chapters to better describe the situation of the Civil War at the timeline of the book. This gives me a much more solid understanding of who the characters are, and why, which will help me write the best of the book. It stinks to backtrack, but it’s worth the effort.

And that’s everything that’s happening in my part of the world! Tell me, how are things going for you?

Best,

Belinda

3 Ways I Knew I Write Young Adult Historical Romance

Dear Reader,

I have been struggling with my genre for almost a year now. I write historical fiction, that much I know because I write stories about fictional people set in a historically-based setting. I use real-world facts to provide the skeleton of my story, fill in details, and let my imagination run wild from there.

My stories also have a romantic element. I write about emotions, fears, hopes, dreams, struggles between personalities. I care about the vulnerability of opening one’s heart to someone else, knowing they may destroy, cherish, or be apathetic to it.

As such, I’ve been saying I write historical romances. Quirky historical romances, if I were to be precise. The quirky is because I bring in elements from the other genres I read for inspiration: fantasy, science fiction, women’s fiction, etc. My last book was pegged as gothic because of the setting, ghostly elements, and suspenseful mini-mystery.

Yet, historical romance doesn’t feel like such a great fit, either. Why? Because I read a lot of historical romances. The Julia Quinns, Candace Camps, Mary Jo Putneys, and Amanda Quicks of the world might raise a brow if they actually read one of my books. Why? I don’t write sex. I’m not interested in writing about it, I never hint at my hero/heroine having sex or even thinking about it. There is sexual tension, of course, or else they wouldn’t be attracted to each other.

Thinking about this made me wonder, you know, maybe I’m writing historical romances for young adults. After some soul searching, I realized there are three ways to tell that I’m writing historical romances for young adults.

1. I include enough historical detail to keep the attention of a fifteen year old, and not much more.

I make no claim to being a historian. I am, at best, a hobby historian. I’ve always loved learning, I am a very disciplined sort of researcher and can access a lot of information in a short amount of time. I had two journals full of handwritten notes from multiple primary and secondary sources for Haunting Miss Trentwood.

Yet the one complaint I hear more often than anything else about that book is I could have gone into a little more detail. Just another paragraph or two in a few spots. My point is that I had more than enough information with which to choke the story. Should I have included a little more? Yes, if it would have helped the story. It is not my goal to provide a history lesson, it is my goal to entertain, without stretching the facts of history as we know it today.

For The Rebel’s Hero, I do plan on writing an author’s note at the end of the book because there will need to be more historical background. I’m covering a part of the Civil War that you just don’t hear about as often, and I won’t be able to cover it in as much detail as I’d like within the actual story.

2. My protagonists are coming of age.

Now, Mary from Haunting Miss Trentwood was in her mid-twenties when the story occurred, which is a bit older than the traditional coming-of-age story. The fact remains that in the story, Mary goes through a change and comes into her own, as it were. She has a romance, deals with family struggles, and makes decisions about who she wants to be and what she can do to become that person. Pick up any young adult book, no matter the genre, and it will be addressing the same issues. Think of Libba Bray, Ann Rinaldi, Laurie Halse Anderson.

3. My stories are fairly straight forward.

If the protagonist is in a love triangle, you will probably be able to guess who they will pick before the end of the story. I don’t like tricking my readers into thinking they’ve figured someone out, and then writing a sort of “Gotcha!” where the character suddenly runs off with someone else. I believe I do this because in every love triangle I’ve seen in real life, only the third wheel sees the love triangle. The couple who is actually falling in love has no idea that third wheel is there.

When there is conflict in my stories, it is something where the hero and heroine need to work together… after or while they work through their interpersonal struggles. I find this is a common thread in young adult stories as well: the hero/heroine don’t quite understand one another, but they are attracted and WANT to understand each other. They go through the growing pains of attempting to become a couple, and their bond is strengthened by a common goal. Again, it is the relationship that is important to me, the coming of age within a relationship that occurs.

This isn’t to say that a young adult historical fiction doesn’t have plot twists and turns, of course.

Thoughts?

There are other ways, I’m sure, that are pointing me in the direction of young adult. But these are the three that came to mind immediately. What are some other ways to tell if you’re writing (or reading) a young adult book?

– – –

This is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Two Thousand Words

Dear Reader,

I wrote two thousand words last week. Pretty pumped about that. It’s for the Catching the Rose rewrite. I also wrote out a preliminary outline for the new book which has yet to have a real title. The working title is Secondhand Sister.

It pays to sleep all the time from being super sick. Yeah? Yeah? Not really, but at least I got some writing done.

I dropped the prices of my novels to $1.99 in celebration of eBook week. You have until the end of Friday to get your 50% discount code RAE50: Haunting Miss Trentwood and Catching the Rose.

That’s a deal if I ever heard of one. I decided to make the change across all my distributors, so that includes Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks, and Smashwords. We’ll see what this does with sales.

How are the other ROW80 writers doing? We’re winding down on the last month and our numbers are dwindling…

Best,

Belinda

Goodies Galore

Dear Reader,

Man, that illness took me out last week! I’m still sleeping an inordinate amount of time, so I’m keeping this blog post short.

I had a guest post at Indie Horror last week where I talked about how Mr. Trentwood, my ghostly father in Haunting Miss Trentwood surprised me time and again… even though I created him! Check it out, it was fun talking about how my character got away from me in the best way possible.

Happy eBook week! Starting March 6, get a 50% discount for Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood with coupon code RAE50; and 100% off Mad Maxine with coupon code RE100 at Smashwords!

Also, Stacey Wallace Benefiel is discounting her books, so you should scoop those up as well. She’s tons of fun to read, and I know, because I read her Day of Sacrifice short and really enjoyed it.

That’s really all the writing I had energy for… my apologies. Enjoy your discounted books!

Best,

Belinda

Guest Post and Giveaway

Dear Reader,

I’m doing my best to catch up with everything after my conference last week, and feel like I’m failing miserably. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer my tardiness! Check out my guest post at Word Nerd and leave a comment there to win a signed print copy of Haunting Miss Trentwood plus the coffin-shaped soap that goes with it!

Best,

Belinda

Playing with Pricing

Dear Reader,

Part of being an entrepreneurial author, indie author, self-publishing author, etc, is that I make my prices and have to watch my supply and demand. I have to experiment with marketing and production and everything else. My primary product right now is Haunting Miss Trentwood, the eBook version. It’s the one that’s selling and the one I’ve made any attempt at marketing. I’m rewriting Catching the Rose and I’m working on my anthology, Love or Lack Thereof, so there is no point playing around with those books right now.

Last Tuesday (Jan 18), I changed the price of Haunting Miss Trentwood from $2.99 to $3.99 for a couple of reasons.

  1. I believe it is worth that price.
  2. It has gotten good reviews that make me think others believe the same.
  3. Honestly, it’s my best (and sometimes only) selling product.
  4. I’m interested to know the perfect pricing for supply vs demand.
  5. I have no idea what the perfect price point is for my books.

I know pricing down is not what I want to do. Pricing up is something I’m interested in testing simply because I’m curious to know what a dollar more will do to sales and interest. I know customers can assume that a cheap eBook means it’s cheap in terms of more than just finances.

I know other authors have experimented a bit more… Right after I made the decision to change the price, I read John’s post about experimenting with his prices. He’s going higher than me, but he also has a larger following. Will my pricing ensure a larger following? Not sure. But I’ve had Haunting Miss Trentwood at $2.99 since October 16, 2010 for two months. I’m willing to try $3.99 for the next two months and see what happens.

I began with $2.99 because multiple authors say that’s the sweet spot. But I’m just not seeing the sales. Thinking changing the price will do something about that?

All the best,

Belinda

Empty Nest Syndrome

Dear Reader,

Reviews for Catching the Rose and Haunting Miss Trentwood are positive, which I’m very happy about. And they aren’t just raving, glowing reviews which other readers sometimes doubt. All the reviews seem thoughtful. I couldn’t ask for more.

Or could I?

When I finish writing a new book, go through the edits, get it to production, I take a step back, admire my handiwork, and fall into a mini-depression.

Ladies and gentlemen, I suffer from empty nest syndrome. I want my babies back.

The nice thing about books not actually being children is that no matter how old I am, whatever my financial or romantic situation, I can make another. A stronger, faster, better one. And I can have as many as I want.

At least, I could if I weren’t also paralyzed by the fact that people are enjoying my work. I want to write, but I am feeling frustrated that the characters haven’t introduced themselves to me yet. And now I have the added pressure of making sure the next book doesn’t suck worse than a sophomore slump. What would that be, anyway, since it would be my third book? A junior jumble?

But hey, I don’t want to whine about how I don’t know my next book. Because that’s not entirely true. I do know I’m going to write a book that uses the research I did for breach of promise that didn’t make it into Haunting Miss Trentwood, which is, oh, I don’t know, all of it.

I also want to release an anthology of short stories, but the problem is that short stories are difficult! I like setting, building up the relationship with the characters. Everything is condensed in a short story. I tend to write contemporary short stories, but I want to keep to my brand and write quirky historical fictions in the short story format.

For whatever reason, I’m feeling 1930s America, which brings up another problem: the last time I studied this era I was in 8th grade. Do I want to do enough research to convert my short stories to fit that era? Or should I use my existing research and write another Victorian historical novel?

I have no idea. Performance anxiety for the fail.

I think rather than dealing with it, I’ll pull an ostrich move and shove my head in the deep sands of a good book. Can you help me out? What are some excellent books you’ve picked up lately?

Best, Belinda

P.S. It’s Monday, which means you should visit the blog to check out the Monday “Meet an Author” blog hop in the sidebar of Worderella Writes.

Book Launch Tea Party

The book launch last week was a success! We had about twenty people, many who knew me, and a few who just happened to see a flier in one of the many Columbus libraries. My 8th grade English teacher came, and the mother of one of my elementary school friends (who also backed this project!). It was a lot of fun.

Special thanks must go to Adrienne, who utilized her journalism background to facilitate the beginning of the party. Without her excellent questions, I might have sat there blinking at my audience for a moment longer than would have been comfortable. 🙂

Thanks must also go to Ava of Sugar Inc, for providing delicious tea and cupcakes for the event. Yay!

My brother took photos with his phone, which I’ve shared below. His phone takes the same quality photos as my old camera. Technology is amazing. Anyway, thanks everyone who was able to make it!